Three Republican heavy-hitters, all of whom are opposed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted in March 2010, answered questions. They were Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and two members of Congress whose districts include a portion of Cobb: Phil Gingrey and Tom Price.
Reynold Jennings, president and CEO of WellStar Health System, moderated the discussion, which was at the Cobb Galleria Centre.
Twenty-six states, including Georgia, challenged the constitutionality of the act, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in a 5-4 decision late last month. Two lower courts had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the individual mandate portion of the law unconstitutional.
Olens said the expansion of Medicaid, or health coverage for the poor, as written in the law would be costly.
“It changes the amount of folks in Georgia on Medicaid from 17.6 percent to 22.4 percent … that means an additional $4.5 billion that the state has to come up with in the next decade,” Olens said.
The Supreme Court ruled, though, that states cannot lose their existing Medicaid funds if they opt out of the expansion.
“The (Medicaid) expansion is a huge problem for the administration,” Olens said. “Many governors are going to say ‘no thank you.’ The administration has a real problem figuring out how to provide universal health care without states’ assistance and activity.”
Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Roswell, said there are 13,000 pages of regulations resulting from the health care act.
“The Court has ruled it constitutional, but we don’t think it’s necessarily good policy,” he said. He explained that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the law was based on the court’s interpretation that the portion law is a tax and therefore constitutional. He added, “$800 billion is the current number in increased taxing authority in the law.”
“If you have fewer than 50 employees, the effect is not a whole lot … but if you employ more than 50, the effect is huge from a monetary standpoint,” Price said. “You are paying somewhere between $8,000 to $12,000 per individual to provide health care insurance.”
Explaining that the penalty for not providing health insurance is a fine of about $2,000 per employee, he said, “There will be a huge disincentive for employers to provide insurance.”
Gingrey said there are “maybe 13 million” Americans who cannot afford health care or are denied due to preexisting conditions.
“While intentions were well placed … the outcome was bad,” said Gingrey, a Marietta obstetrician and gynecologist. “This act is indeed the law of the land. The men and women in this room, you are the ones that need to get prepared … in the event that this law does not go away.”
Olens’ office joined the litigation as soon as he took office in January 2011.
“It is not very often that you get the majority of state attorneys general filing suit against the federal government,” he said. “The principle of federalism still means something in this country.”